A special reunion took place in Waterloo, Ont., recently, where curlers from across Canada took over the K-W Granite Club for the CIS-Curling Canada University Curling Championships.
Four of those curlers were together again for the first time since 2012, when they won a bronze medal in Innsbruck, Austria, as members of Canada’s first Youth Olympics team.
Yukon’s Thomas Scoffin, British Columbia’s Corryn Brown, Manitoba’s Derek Oryniak and Prince Edward Island’s Emily Gray first met at the 2011 Canada Winter Games in Halifax, where they were selected to work with coach Helen Radford as the team that would represent Canada at the first-ever Youth Olympic Games.
After months of preparation, the young Canadian squad travelled to Innsbruck. They finished in second place in their pool with a 5-2 record and won their quarter-final. Team Canada looked to be rolling towards the podium.
But then came a crushing loss to Italy in the semifinal. With the help of coach Radford, the determined curlers regrouped and climbed back with an outstanding performance to win bronze – the first medal for the entire Youth Olympics Canadian team in Innsbruck.
Oryniak remembers that experience as one of the highlights – and lowlights – of his young curling career.
“When you put so much pressure on yourself to….bring home gold for your country, losing the game to give yourself a chance to do that is extremely difficult,” he said recently in an interview after receiving a Curling Canada For The Love Of Curling scholarship. “However, I have never been more proud of myself and my amazing teammates for how all four of us were able to recover from the loss and play one of our best games together to win the bronze.”
Those “amazing” teammates had a chance to meet up again in Waterloo, as opponents on the ice and friends off it – another step in their curling journeys.
Gray, playing second with UPEI Panthers teammates Veronica Smith (skip), Jane DiCarlo (third), Aleya Quilty (lead) and coach Paul Smith, finished fourth after losing the bronze medal game to home-town Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks, 8-3.
Oryniak, playing third for the University of Winnipeg Wesmen with skip Kyle Doering, second Ty Dilello, lead Robbie Gordon and coach Calvin Edie, won the bronze medal after defeating Saint Mary’s University Huskies 6-4.
Brown, who earlier this season wore provincial colours as skip of Team BC at the M&M Meat Shops Canadian Junior Curling Championships in Liverpool, N.S., lost a close 7-6 final to University of Alberta’s Kelsey Rocque, the reigning junior women’s world champion. In Waterloo, Brown was the skip of the Thompson Rivers University WolfPack squad consisting of Erin Pincott (third), Samantha Fisher (second), Ashley Nordin (lead), Sydney Fraser (alternate) and coach Brenda Nordin.
And the final Youth Olympian, Scoffin, led his University of Alberta Golden Bears (third Evan Asmussen, second Jason Ginter, lead Andrew O’Dell, alternate Brayden Power and coach Rob Krepps) to a 6-4 win over Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks, making it a gold-medal sweep for Alberta.
The Youth Olympics provided these talented young curlers with an early taste of international competition, and based on their many successes so far – including their playoff results at the CIS-SIC university championships last week in Waterloo – the experience had a huge impact on them.
“There was no stopping us, and we knew it,” said Scoffin after that bronze-medal win back in 2012. “I couldn’t ask for three better teammates.”